If you haven’t had Austrian food, you’re in for a treat. We would go as far as to say that Austrian food is the unsung hero of cuisine. This goes way beyond schnitzel, but that’s pretty darned good too. And now there is a new-ish Austrian restaurant in NYC. But does it measure up to the real thing in Vienna? This is the review.
We’ve said this before, but Austrian cuisine is worthy of a foodie’s attention. While we’ve had some stellar Austrian restaurant in NYC over the years, it’s always been just a few spots. Thank goodness for chef Kurt Gutenbrunner of Wallsé and Café Sabarsky, who keeps Austrian cuisine alive and well in New York. But there are never enough Austrian restaurants in NYC. In fact, we still miss Café Gray in the Time Warner, and David Bouley’s Danube.
Enter chef Markus Glocker (who hails from Linz, Austria) and his latest Austrian venture in NYC. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s a James Beard award winner, and previously the chef of Bâtard in Tribeca. In the space that was once the beloved Breslin, chef Glocker recently opened Koloman. You get major Jeopardy points if you knew that it’s named after artist Koloman Moser, a leader in the Vienna Secession movement and a co-founder of the Wiener Werkstätte. One other fun fact is that Koloman — the restaurant — takes over the old Breslin space in the Ace Hotel.
If you’re looking for supermodels and a bouncer with a velvet rope at the front door, Koloman is the exact opposite of that. Instead, you’ll find a restaurant that feels a little like a modern European gastropub. For those of us who are Vienna fans, there’s also a subtle touch of Austrian kitsch. By that, I mean the printed curtains that separate the booths along with the wood paneling and eclectic wallpaper. I studied in Vienna, so I appreciate that Koloman stays true to the DNA of an Austrian restaurant in NYC.
As for the other diners, you’ll find people who are serious about food, and those who just want to eat at one of the best new restaurants in NYC. It’s a nice crowd of grownups, and the atmosphere is lively without it being difficult to hear your dinner companions. If you want to drop in solo or eat with friends at the bar, no problem: there’s a nice bar scene, and solid cocktails.
I won’t bury the lede; this is not just some of the best Austrian food, it’s some of the best food in NYC right now. I think the perfect group size is four people with big appetites, so you can try as many of the dishes as possible. The gougères make their distinct mark with red-wine shallots in the center of the eggy pastry. The snapper crudo with horseradish, spicy citrus, and smoked olive oil literally melts in your mouth. It doesn’t count as calories to eat this, and you may regret having to share it with your tablemates. The celery root tartare is a flex to show that such a wallflower of a vegetable can really shine with the right chef. And you’re at an Austrian restaurant in NYC, so anything that has beets should hit your table.
Two Words: Cheese Soufflé
I can’t begin to extoll the virtues of the cheese soufflé, but I’ll say that there just aren’t enough places in New York that serve this dish. At Koloman, it comes with a mushroom “jam” that you mix right into the center of the soufflé. The fennel tagliatelle with smoked trout, vermouth and caviar is another standout. The only underwhelming dish was the lobster burger. This was surprising as it has my three favorite foods: lobster, caviar, and potato. It wasn’t bad; just not as complex and inspired as the other dishes.
The Must-Order Dishes of the Night
Speaking of which, the salmon en croute and the whole roasted chicken are two dishes that should be on every table. The salmon is cooked impossibly perfectly and consistently throughout. In lieu of a puff pastry, the salmon is encrusted in a thin, savory bread crust. The chicken is a production, and brought out in a dramatic flourish with all the fixingsI don’t even eat chicken but would order this dish just to get the spätzle. My one tip for Koloman is that this is an Austrian restaurant in NYC; you need to make the spätzle accessible to all, at least as a side dish.
Dessert That’s Worth It
I’m not a dessert person. But given my nostalgia about my time in Vienna, I do order dessert in Austrian restaurants. Dessert in Austria is like its own food group, and of course the team at Koloman does a simple apple strudel. However, that’s not what you should order. This Austrian restaurant in NYC shines in the dessert department. There’s a soufflé for two, with lingonberry jam, vanilla ice cream, and rum — because at this point, you’re all-in.
The palatshinken is a for those who aren’t into super-sweet desserts. It’s beautifully presented and filled with a fromage blanc with a side of grapefruit bay-leaf sherbet. The pastry chef has major skills, so order at least one of the offerings to end the meal.
Austrian service, especially in Vienna, is not necessarily notable. So for this Austrian restaurant in NYC, I would say that the service of Koloman is pretty authentic. It wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t overly welcoming or passionate. Essentially, the food and service are not quite aligned. However, the food is so good that it more than makes up for the less-than-perfect waitstaff. Also, the hosts and the manager of the restaurant are really welcoming, and set your expectations high for the experience you’ll have at Koloman.
Overall: 9/10. This Austrian restaurant in NYC is one of the best restaurants right now.
Like every restaurant in NYC, Koloman is a tough reservation to get. Brunch is worth a look, but dishes like the salmon en croute or the cheese soufflé won’t be available.
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